Uni Survival Guide: The All Nighter

JENNA CORDEROY on how to survive an all night essay crisis. Caffeine overdose, paranoia and power ballads abound.

Cambridge coffee essay essay crisis Night panic power ballad pressure stress work

Sometimes it’s your fault, sometimes it’s not.  But there’s no time to play the blame game now.  The essay’s due tomorrow morning. Face it.  You’re gonna have to pull an all-nighter

I’ve had my fair share of all-nighters.  Quite a few of my essays from last term were produced in the dead of night.  No, scratch that.  ALL of my essays were written as the sun rose.   

Firstly, preparation. There’s some things you absolutely have to have to get through this:

· Coffee (Essential. Proplus also an option.)
· Sweets
· Music

Pre All-Nighter: 

So have you got all those items?  That’s good.  I can’t stress enough that you’re going to need a lot of willpower for this, and you’re not going to get through it by thinking negative.  It’s best to approach the all-nighter from a positive stance, and what usually helps is to watch one and only one (for time is precious) episode of ‘South Park’ or ‘Family Guy’ to get you in a happy mood.  Are you happy now?  Good.  Drink some coffee. 

As the caffeine kicks in, you must sort out your music playlist for the night.  You need to vary this playlist at specific times but I’ll guide you this. Don’t worry, I’m here.  We’ll make it through the night, hand-in-hand, and you WILL get your essay done.  YOU WILL DO IT.  See?  That’s called positive thinking.  And you’re going to need heaps of it.

List out exactly what you need to get done during the all-nighter therefore you can judge what kind of work output rate you need to keep to e.g. at a fast rate / super duper fast work output rate etc. 

9pm – 11:59pm:   

This is the most productive segment of the all-nighter.  Make the most of it.  Now drink some coffee.  Do not let yourself get distracted.  The music you should be listening to at this stage is something you can’t sing along to – you’re not at Fez now so deal with it.  I would recommend listening to some inspiring movie soundtracks like LOTR or Star Wars.  You must summon all your concentration and strength.  Focus.  Good.  You’re doing well, you’re speeding through textbooks in a matter of minutes; faster than those suckers who spend all day in the library carefully annotating.  Now drink more coffee.  You can’t start to slump now, you’re cooking on gas! 

00:00 – 2:59am:

This is where you’re at your most vulnerable.  You can plot your work rate on a graph and now it’s starting to peak.  If you feel like this, immediately grab some coffee, eat something sugary, and play some dance music.  Get up from your desk for a couple of minutes and shake it all out.  Shake it like a Polaroid picture.  And now continue with your work.  The music I would recommend at this point is a high-energy American DJ called ‘Girl Talk’ who does some great mash-ups.  Just keep thinking positive, keep drinking the coffee – speed through your work because the next segment of time is going to be horrible. 

3am – 6am:

This is the most disgusting part of the all-nighter.  But you’re so close to finishing your work (I hope), you’re so nearly there.  The sun is rising.  Today is a new day.  At this point the coffee’s worn off, your brain cries out for sleep but you’re like ‘no sleep, I’m not going to give into your tempting and seductive ways, I’m going to keep on fighting’.  Good for you.  This is great positive thinking.  But your brain fights back, begging for sleep, and out of spite, it starts to play tricks on you.  Floaters start blurring your vision; you may even get the shakes from all that coffee.  You look out the window.  Is that bird giving me evils?  You look behind you, checking that no-one’s watching you.  That’s called paranoia.  And it’s perfectly natural at this point in time.  You’re energy has now flatlined, so what can you do to empower yourself? 

Bring on the air-grabbing power ballads.  Bring on Bonnie Tyler, Barbara Streisand.  See Cyndi Lauper, Billy Joel, The Cars, A-Ha, Rod Stewart.  They are life-savers.

Post All-Nighter:         

Well, you’ve made it.  Good job.  You’ve survived.  Congrats!  You’ve finished your essays and problem questions.  You’ve managed to produce something that’s both shocking and appalling.  But what matters is that you’ve written something, and no supervisor can take that away from you.  I suggest you should immediately cut out the coffee, drink plenty of water to dilute all that caffeine and sugar that’s swirling around your body.  Now catch up on sleep.